Who manages the Earth as the Earth should be
Nam Hyo-chang | Chairman of the Board of the Forest Research Institute
A tree is the organism that best manages complex natural relationships and natural phenomena.
The strength of trees that manages an extremely complicated forest ecosystem for so long without any problem is not originated from excellent and genius ability of trees. The strength is in their simplicity. Being faithful to simplicity is the strength of the trees. It is not a purpose-oriented hard life that trees live.
Being faithful to simplicity is the strength of the tree. It is not a purpose-oriented hard life that a tree lives. They are just glad to accept the fact that they are alive.
When you see autumn leaves, you know it is autumn. When you feel it is autumn, you find autumn foliage. No matter how confusingly unseasonable the last spring and summer may have been, in autumn the trees change from green to autumn colours. It is the law of nature. This law is the repetition of simplicity. Trees maintain their lives according to the law of nature. A simple pattern of life repeats itself for hundreds of years, sometimes thousands of years to form a forest of diversity and complexity. It is how a spider weaves its web; a dense, complicated two-dimensional plane by repeating the simple connection of silk thread. The inner quality of a complex and multi-dimensional forest is the product of repetition of simplicity.
There is not much material needed for a tree to grow. A few kinds of molecular units are sufficient. Water, carbon dioxide and light. But from the moment a tree shows signs of life, things around the tree are changing. In addition to a tree producing complex macromolecular materials on its own, many other microorganisms such as root nodule bacteria grow in the roots. Larvae of various butterflies and moths hibernate around the roots. Earwigs, centipedes, snails, slugs, ticks and other invertebrates live nearby too. On the surface of the ground where roots are present, lichens, mosses, ferns, monocots and dicots grow. When invertebrates and plants are in place, vertebrates also flourish.
We humans have found civilization in our search for new ways to live, and have moved away from a life of direct connection with the trees. But primates, such as chimpanzees and bonobos, can only survive in the presence of trees. A complex chain of relationships from microbes to mosses, from invertebrates to vertebrates are linked to the simple life of trees. The health and diversity of the Earth we live on can find its beginning in the simple life of trees. Even if advanced space exploration found a planet which could sustain lifeforms in another planetary system, we could not say the lifeforms there would be same as living things on Earth. Earth is the only place where life as we know of can live together. The ecosystem of the Earth founded on trees is gradually losing its health due to the progress of science and technology. The cause of its environmental degradation is excessive consumption caused by the rapidly increasing human population. Pesticides and insecticides sprayed to increase food production are transforming many areas into barren land where life cannot survive. In addition, harmful substances flow along the waterways into rivers and seas, are threatening the healthy life of fishes. Simplifying and unifying the habitats to produce massive quantities of consumer goods has resulted in extreme climate changes and pollution that human cannot live with. In recent years, anthropogenic threats from careless transportation of species (exotic species) across international borders unconsciously or indifferently, without consideration of ecosystems, are also a major cause of various diseases and ecosystem disruption. If the natural ecosystem is like a sinking boat that we are on, what can we do? What must we do first? Find the cause of the environmental degradation. It is the overload to meet the overspending that leads to sinking. We seem to be in a situation where we do not even know that we have too much, and that we are demanding too much from the natural ecosystem.
The autumn leaves appear little by little,
Step by step.
A tree is the organism that best manages complex natural relationships and natural phenomena. The strength of trees that manages an extremely complicated forest ecosystem for so long without any problem is not originated from excellent and genius ability of trees. The strength is in their simplicity. Being faithful to simplicity is the strength of the trees. Trees do not categorize bees and wasps into angels and demons. Trees do not determine that pine mushrooms are more valuable and more economical than poisonous red-haired pinewood mushrooms. Trees do not commit foolish things like picking out what creatures should or should not live on the land. It is not a purpose-oriented hard life that trees live. They are just glad to accept the fact that they are alive. They do not waste life in such a ridiculously restrained way as to believe that life is something profound, complex, spiritual, or that there must be a purpose in life. Could that be the secret to their simple and humble lives? From the moment they start their lives on the ground, trees want nothing but light, water and carbon dioxide.
A row of grasses belonging to Cyperaceae family
From the left, Stephandra incisa, Mongolian oak tree, Ailanthus altissima, Mongolian Oak tree Young seedlings are participating in the restoration work free of charge.
I take walks through the forest every morning. Sometimes I walk along the man made path, and sometimes I ramble through the bush where there is no trail. Trees often form a green median strip along the road or trail. The median strip may direct the traffic to the left or right hand side for safe passage. Or it may safely guide cars like a monorail track. Even on an odd patch of ground that may be useless to human beings, trees carry on their lives. You do not need to know their names. They do not bother to find who has exposed the hillside naked. Trees waste no time in growing roots. No matter what kind of trees they are, if trees can, they will take root into a rough and barren land before others can. Many natural disasters can be prevented because of the existence of trees. It is safer and more pleasing to the eye than man made stone walls and barrier walls in preventing landslides. They also complete recovery from natural disasters safely free of charge. In recovering from ecosystem disturbances caused by earthquakes, landslides and typhoons, trees possess superior ability to respectable human technology.
We do not need to thank them for doing these things, because they do not work for our wellbeing. If we want to thank them, we can live a simple life as they do as much as is possible. I want you to realise that it is dangerous to attempt to remodel Earth like an artificial island with our advanced science and technology. The ecosystem of our planet cannot be managed safely by present human science and technology. I would like you to review the future direction human science and technology are heading to, or listen seriously to the lectures on how trees and small creatures run our ecosystems. This may be the only way to keep Earth’s ecosystem and humanity in balance.